Yes, it’s been more than a year since I posted. I’ve no idea why and realize readers might think I succumbed to Covid or something else dreadful. I was on a pretty good roll, posting my fevered writing prompts. They are a lot of fun and continue, but I haven’t felt compelled to share any of them.
In the interests of burying the lede, in news speak, not to be confused with newspeak, that Orwellian term that’s becoming more real than fiction, I just had a novel accepted for publication. Yes! Let’s add some exclamation points!
One of the reasons I’ve been too busy to post in the last year was finishing it. This one will be science fiction, but will continue my MO of Big Themes and Dire Stakes. I’ll hold off on other details for now, but the contract is signed, and it should be out by the end of this year.
Now I’m feverishly writing a sequel, but the first will stand alone if you can stand it. I’m deep in the second draft (still shitty, but it’s only version 2.1) and am simply loving being immersed in this world, even though it’s not a very friendly place. If I’m lucky, I’ll have a third installment with these characters. They deserve it.
I’ve seen a few posts online lately where writers face overwhelming odds for visibility, acceptance, readers, even merely getting published. This is a tough business, writing. (Especially with a cat weighing down one arm, as mine is now.)
Why do we write? Why do we continue despite the overwhelming odds—of getting published (OK, there’s always the DIY option), of getting noticed (harder given the ginormous number of books out there), of making any actual money (highly unlikely for most writers)?
We’re told we need to know our audience.
We’re told we need to write diverse characters.
We’re told we need to market ourselves, create a brand.
We’re told we need to tweet more, buy Facebook ads, don’t bother with any of that because it won’t do any good.
I can’t possibly know my audience. Should I pick a demographic and write for them? Well, I write for lesbians, that much I’ll admit. But if I really wanted to be successful and sell a lot of books, I’d be churning out one or two Romances a year. In a few years I’d have enough backlist to make enough money to offset my expenses.
Confession: I’m not into Romances. I love a good love story, and that’s what I write, but after a couple of [Insert name] has a [dark secret, difficult past, is grieving: choose any or all of the above] and [Insert another name] has a [a different dark secret, difficult past, is grieving: choose any or all of the above], I know how this will end. Will they overcome their differences? Hell, yes. How they do it is the point, and I admire writers who do it well time after time, but you know they’ll do it. Romances require the happily ever after (HEA). It comes with the genre.
That’s fine. But that’s not my brand or my audience. Not that I don’t have HEAs. I have no interest in leaving my main character unhappy.
Within the lesbian fiction community, there is much attention (and money) paid to Romance writing, reading, selling, etc. and for good reason. When I worked in a bookstore, Romances were the largest section on our fiction wall (science fiction might have come in second).
Romance sells. If I were in it for the money, that’s what I’d write (and I’m not saying romance writers are in it for the money, just that I couldn’t do it for love alone). But I have this peculiar interest in stories I’m not seeing a lot of out there. So I’m taking Toni Morrison’s advice and writing the stories I want to read. In that regard, I am my audience.
I want to write diverse characters, but I’m a cis, white lesbian. I’ll let others write main characters who aren’t cis, white lesbians. I would, however, love it if readers could imagine themselves as any of my characters. I recently read a crime thriller novel by a renowned personality (not exactly known for her fiction). She detailed the main character down to her green eyes (why do they all have green eyes?). Still, I couldn’t picture her. So I imagined her as played by Sonequa Martin-Green, from Star Trek: Discovery. Then she clicked for me. So skip the eye color unless it matters to the plot. I can fill that in.
Marketing. Sigh. Not a strength of this introvert. If Covid has had any bright spot, it’s been the excuse to isolate, become a hermit.
As for social media, frankly, it depresses me. I’m in the camp of, it doesn’t sell books. Blogging? As you can see, forget about it. Anyway, most of my “views” come from China. What’s that all about?
So why do I do it?
Back up to where I said my characters deserve a third installment. I’ve come to realize that I do it for them. You spend five or more years locked in a room with a handful of (imaginary) people and see if you don’t fall in love. They are as real to me as anyone. I’d prefer to spend another five years with them in order to prefect my telling of their stories, but, alas, I’d probably never be fully satisfied. So I am content to do the best I can at this moment in time. Because getting their stories out there matters too.
I’ll end with a terrific Barbara Kingsolver quote: “A writer without readers is just a person alone in a room.”